by Melody Christian | Featured Contributor
I made a long list of all the potential expenses associated with my business. I was trying to figure out whether or not I could finally make the leap into full-time self-employment, and wanted to make sure I had everything covered. From accounting, to subscriptions, even to the approximate amount of gas I’d be using each month—I thought I had it all precisely budgeted.
It wasn’t until I was self employed that I ran across an expense that took me by surprise.
I’m talking about COFFEE. Not your daily cup-o-joe that fuels your mind and keeps your eyes open. The cup of coffee that I’d purchase when meeting with a client or networking with a local business owner. When I was first starting out, on average I’d meet between five to six people each week. If they weren’t proposing a “coffee date,” I was! So that lead to paying for at least five cups of coffee each week for myself, plus at least three cups I’d buy for my clients. That means at a minimum, I was dropping around $40 on coffee each week. That’s an expense of $160 a month! Who knew coffee would make my Adobe and Intuit monthly subscriptions look like chump change?
Why always a coffee date? It kind of just makes sense. You don’t want to pay for a full meal (imagine budgeting THAT one), only have around an hour or so to meet, and coffee shops create environments conducive to friendly meetings and delightful conversations. Cozying up with a latte while talking with a close friend, or sipping on iced espresso while giving a brand design presentation just makes meetings all that more enjoyable. It’s a part of our culture, and we’ve been trained to love it.
Coffee dates won’t ever be entirely avoided. Even if you decide to give them up completely, you can bet a client will suggest meeting at a coffee shop—and you can only turn that down so many times. So be smart and work that hefty expense of coffee into your monthly budget. Plan for it, just as you would any other business expense. Then try lightening the load with a few (mostly free) ideas:
- Meet over Skype. It might seem silly to meet over Skype with someone locally, but Skype can offer all the benefits of a one-to-one get together without the added cost. It can be convenient for both you and your client, and you can still share a cup of coffee or tea—just virtually. Get creative and take your laptop out on your deck or in your front yard for your meeting. Give your client a little sneak-peek at your world and share in theirs right back!
- Go on a walk or hike together. I’m not talking about summiting a mountain or anything. You want to still be able to hash through ideas and have real conversation WITHOUT gasping for air. But get moving, pick a nice, beautiful spot to stroll, and hit the trails.
- Meet at their place. It’s often important to take a step into your client’s world in order to fully understand what it is they do. Ask them if they’d feel comfortable in having you at their shop or office to meet. One of my favorite meetings I can recall is when I was invited to meet at a client’s boutique. We sat at her quaint little desk amidst all of her beautiful handmade items—swoon!
- Go to a point of inspiration. All of us have a favorite bench, lake shore, or local art gallery that we like to call our point of inspiration. Ask your client if they have a favorite spot where they like to go and think, and ask if you can join them there. If you’re both comfortable with each other already, this is a great alternative to a cozy coffee shop.
Try a few new ideas to help you balance out the endless coffee dates, but also enjoy the coffee meet-ups you do have knowing you’ve budgeted for them accordingly!
Melody Christian is a brand designer and creative business owner who’s crazy about her tribe of inspirational, passionate storytellers. In January of 2015, she launched her life’s calling, Finicky Designs. Through Finicky Designs, she helps devoted writers form incredible brands that propel their words.
Working as an in-house designer for over five years, she’s also pursued her freelance side-hustle in the evenings and on the weekends. She likes to joke that she works day and night (but no, really, she works day and night). Only seven months after launching Finicky Designs, she’s decided to pursue it full time to create a life of freedom and fulfillment. Currently in the transition of the “big leap,” she’ll be saying goodbye to her nine-to-five forever on July 15th of this year.
Melody firmly believes it’s her life’s calling to help as many writers as she can through her brand design expertise. Writers’ stories deserve to be heard, and that they deserve to work with a designer that understands and supports their dreams.
Melody lives in the Colorado mountains with her personal accountant (the husband) and two spoiled dogs. She’s slightly obsessed with Pantone colors, foxes, french toast, and chocolate breaks. You can find her on Twitter. Or if you prefer a more behind-the-scenes look at her life—connect on Instagram.